Once upon a time, the American desert was best known for blistering sun, lone cacti and solitary tumbleweeds rolling through an arid landscape. Nowadays, desert destinations are tourist meccas full of indoor and outdoor attractions— a cheerful escape from the gloomy skies of winter. Whether for you that means hiking and biking, a few rounds of golf, or an intense session at the blackjack table, every traveler craves respite from the action—and nothing provides that serenity and balance like a state-of-the-art spa. Spa visits can be the backbone for a weeklong retreat or simply a sumptuous way to begin or conclude a vacation day, and a handful of desert spas now offer desert-goers an oasis of calm. Embark on a tour of the red rock deserts of Arizona, the art deco architecture of Palm Springs, the bright lights of Las Vegas, the Native American–influenced Mojave Desert hills of Utah, and discover five retreats that take relaxation to new heights.
Mii amo is a Native American phrase meaning journey, and visitors to this singular destination spa in Sedona, Arizona, will be taken on a journey they’ll never forget. Located on the grounds of the 70-acre Enchantment Resort, the spa is sited in what many New Age aficionados consider a spiritual vortex of healing, and this belief is central to every aspect of the offerings here, from treatments and fitness activities to accommodations and cuisine.
The heart of the customizable spa experience takes place in the 24,000-square-foot spa building, constructed with adobe brick, indigenous stone, bamboo floors and floor-to-ceiling windows providing picturesque backdrop views of red-rock Boynton Canyon. Therapies are given in one of 19 treatment rooms or five outdoor areas, and the innovative menu includes more than 60 relaxing options. Along with massage and bodywork, more spiritual offerings include Past Life Regression ($220, 90 minutes), Psychic Massage ($130, 60 minutes), Body Feng Shui ($130, 60 minutes) and Aura-Soma Color Readings ($180, 60 minutes), in which guests put 94 bottles filled with plant-based colored substances into the sequence of their choice and then learn what their selection says about their past, present and future.
Many guests flock to the Crystal Grotto for meditation and reflection; this structure, the centerpiece of the spa, is modeled after a Native American kiva and meant to connect the heavens and the earth with its circular, domelike design. Indoor and outdoor fitness activities are also offered, as well as a series of wellness-oriented lectures. The fine-dining Mii Amo Café serves an eclectic, regionally accented cuisine from an exhibition-style kitchen; cooking classes are available.
The Mii Amo experience is completely integrative, says director of spa services Deborah Waldvogel; the Ayurvedic “journey,” for example, imparts the principles of Ayurveda during the treatments, consultations, classes and meals.
Guests reside in a charming village of adobe-style casitas during their three-, four-, or seven-night stays; prices range from $1,740 to $6,090 depending on season and include accommodations, the award-winning spa cuisine, use of fitness and spa facilities, and access to all fitness classes and lectures.
Red Mountain Spa
Adventure lovers with a penchant for pampering and peace will find perfection in this tranquil destination retreat at the foot of the red sandstone cliffs of the Mojave Desert in St. George, Utah. Red Mountain Spa is in a picturesque canyon- and mountain-filled setting, so myriad hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking and whitewater rafting opportunities are right outside the door.
A recent multimillion-dollar renovation added the three-story Sagestone, a 14-room spa and
salon housed in a geodesic dome with stunning views. More than 70 treatments, including several incorporating indigenous ingredients like canyon stones, mud, rosemary, sage and Utah salts, are available here. The therapies have themes: Red Earth, Desert and Botanicals, Ancients, Adventure, Romance, Teen and Luxury. Highlights include the Canyon Sage Warm Stone Massage ($150, 75 minutes), a rubdown with warm sage- and juniper-infused massage oil and warm canyon stones; the Mountain Glow ($105, 50 minutes), an invigorating body scrub with mineral salts from the Great Salt Lake Basin; and Four Directions ($150, 75 minutes), a Native American–inspired spiritual journey with a ritual burning of herbs and selection of an animal totem before a body scrub, massage and wrap.
Guests can also meditate while using Japanese rakes in the sand garden or get centered in the sacred spiral circle in the lava bed gardens. More than 50 fitness classes and a host of healthy living and creative expression classes round out the spa menu.
Accommodations include 82 rooms and 12 villa suites, all with views of nearby cliffs and canyons. The Canyon Breeze Restaurant serves Southwest-inspired fare and cooking lessons from the Red Mountain Spa School for Adventure Cuisine inspire guests to take healthy cooking skills home. Rates vary seasonally from $275 to $555 per person per night; teen rates are available.
Palm Springs Yacht Club
“We believe you are only young once…but you can be immature forever,” the resort’s manifesto reads. Spa-goers who don’t take themselves too seriously can set sail with nautical-themed relaxation at the Palm Springs Yacht Club in the Parker Palm Springs Hotel. The 16,500-square-foot, 16-treatment-room spa brings a hip, retro spin to the resort experience with a design that evokes the yacht and country clubs of the 1950s and a selection of fun yet elegant treatments.
The nautical theme extends to the hydrotherapy and marine-infused treatments. Other options like the Desert Stone Therapy ($135, 60 minutes) highlight the desert location by incorporating ingredients such as regional minerals steeped with desert sage oil. Still other spa standouts include the Voodoo We Do Thai massage ($150, 60 minutes), the skin-quenching Poseidon’s Confidant facial ($150, 60 minutes) and the magical Hocus Pocus Polish body scrub ($90, 45 minutes). Full- and half-day spa packages are available.
Outside the treatment rooms, guests can relax all day in the separate men’s and women’s clothing-optional areas, the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and the saunas and steam rooms. Inspired group fitness activities like croquet and pétanque supplement more typical offerings like outdoor yoga and tennis.
Parker Palm Springs’ 144 guest rooms are a throwback to the resort’s original incarnation as Merv Griffin’s celebrity-studded Givenchy Resort and Spa. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom Gene Autry Residence, onetime home of the renowned singing cowboy, offers the ultimate retro Palm Springs experience; other accommodations include poolside villas, suites, estate rooms and more, extravagantly conceived by
acclaimed designer Jonathan Adler. Prices range start at $245 per night, depending on season.
Ancient Rome gets a Vegas-style makeover with the new Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace. Here guests can submerge themselves in a circuit of Roman baths in the men’s and women’s areas—the spa’s lavish focal point. The social-oriented baths come in three temperatures—a 98-degree tepidarium pool, a 104-degree calidarium pool and a 72-degree fridgidarium pool—all evoking the classical Roman custom of communal bathing. Other hydro-focused highlights include the city’s first Arctic Ice Room, an invigorating place to chill out pre- and post-treatment, with ice chips for exfoliating while enjoying the crisp 55-degree air. Two healing hot spots, the Laconium Cedar Wood dry sauna and the Herbal Steam Room (infused with fresh herbs), are included in all treatments. A $35 day pass gives modern-day emperors and empresses full access to all spas.
In-depth treatments are also available, in one of 51 treatment studios. The Hourglass Treatments are fully customized—60, 120 or 180 minutes of facials, body treatments and more, depending on spa-goers’ choice. The Qua Signature Chakra Balancing ($225 and up, 75 minutes) is a harmonizing treatment with energy work and warm oils to align the body’s energy centers, and the decadent Qua Signature Bath Liqueur ($85, 20 minutes) is a foaming bath made with a hydrating potion of herbs, oils and milks. For a true Vegas sparkle, Swarovski crystal tattoos are applied in the Crystal Body Art Room. The Men’s Only Zone purveys the straight-razor shaving talents of a master barber along with other face and body treatments.
In addition to the countless accommodations in Las Vegas, Caesars Palace itself has 3,300 hotel guest rooms and suites, at a range of prices and luxury levels, as well as high-end award-winning restaurants to please all palates.
Time is the essence of the experience at the luxe Spa Avania, a 21,000-square-foot retreat at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona. Every aspect of a guest’s visit is synchronized with the body’s changing rhythms and requirements. (Avania is a state achieved when the five senses are completely aligned.)
Treatments are designed according to the body’s needs during three different times of the day. Morning experiences focus on awakening and revitalizing, with invigorating ingredients and techniques. Midday sessions harmonize and restore, while evening therapies relax and repair with scents like jasmine, lavender and sandalwood.
The time-of-day approach carries over into the spa’s ambient music, cuisine, and assortment of rare teas from all over the world. From arrival to departure, guests move through 14 music “zones”; personalized iPods and speaker systems in each treatment room have ten customizable playlists geared to the body’s response to time of day. The spa’s biodynamic, organic teas were planted and harvested according to the lunar cycle, and the specialized gourmet spa cooking is tailored to the body’s nutritional needs throughout the day.
Two- to four-hour Experiences, Journeys, and Passages packages, priced up to $468, combine treatments, teas, and cuisine. Desert-inspired sessions include the Desert Essence Wrap ($130, 60 minutes), which incorporates trehalose, a hydrating component found in cactus, and the Avania Scrub ($150, 60 minutes), using locally harvested white sage. Other treatment series cater specifically to men and pregnant clients.
Outside, visitors find relief from the Sonoran Desert sun in a water-filled oasis of waterfalls, fountains and pools. Separate men’s and women’s outdoor lounges feature hot and cold plunges and outdoor storm showers, mesquite wood-burning fireplaces, and views of the French Celtic mineral pool, a lotus pond, a black granite waterfall and the majestic Camelback Mountain in the distance.
Accommodations range from the Casita Suites, with up to four bedrooms and spectacular views of mountains, golf courses or gardens, to Southwest-inspired rooms; seasonal prices start at $195 a night.